Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Program Name/Specialization

Developmental Psychology


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Alexandra Gottardo

Advisor Role



Literacy skills are key to success in school, career, and everyday life. Despite school curricula being strongly focused on literacy development (Ministry of Education, 2006), many children continue to fall behind the expected literacy skill levels for their grade (Education Quality and Accountability Office, 2012a, 2012b; National Center for Education Statistics, 2011). The present study evaluated a literacy intervention, Better Reading for School Success (BRSS), accompanied by a parent/guardian literacy workshop and weekly tips regarding how parents and/or guardians can promote literacy skill development at home. The BRSS was also evaluated as a subsection of family literacy afterschool programs, ‘Get Set Learn Afterschool’ (GSLA; Kelland & Wasielewski, 2011) or ‘Get Set Learn- Together with Grandparents’ (Hewitt & Davis, in press), which both were run by Project READ Literacy Network Waterloo-Wellington (Project READ). The BRSS was designed for students in Grades 3 to 6 who were “at-risk” of school failure due to low socioeconomic status (SES), or due to having parents and/or guardians who had low literacy levels (Moore, Vandivere, & Redd, 2006) or who did not learn English as a first language (Rush & Vitale, 1994). The principals and/or teachers also helped to identify which students were having difficulties meeting the expectations for their grade level. The final samples included 11 participants whose families took part in both the 20-hour Project READ programs (Hewitt & Davis, in press; Kelland & Wasielewski, 2011) and the 10-hour BRSS component, 13 participants whose families took part in only the BRSS program along with the workshop and weekly literacy tips, and 20 participants who took part in the no- exposure control group. The intervention groups and the control group completed standardized measures of literacy skills and a self-efficacy questionnaire at pretest and posttest and parents and/or guardians completed questionnaires. The control group was not asked to take part in any additional programs, but their families were offered a workshop after the posttesting was complete on ways to promote literacy skills at home. It was hypothesized that the intervention groups would have significantly greater increases in their scores than the no-exposure control group on all measures. When the intervention groups were treated as one overall group and compared to the control group, the intervention group had significantly greater improvements on reading comprehension skills than the control group. When the Project READ and BRSS program (PR/BRSS program), the BRSS program, and the control groups were compared as separate groups, the BRSS intervention group had significantly greater improvements in decoding skills than the PR/BRSS program group and the control group. Including SES as a covariate did not significantly change the results, but literacy measure scores were typically related to one another as expected. There were no significant changes in children’s levels of self-efficacy from pretest to posttest, but results suggest that parents and/or guardians may have gained confidence in supporting their children’s literacy skill development and communicating with their children’s schools. Results are explained in terms of the BRSS group starting off with lower levels of decoding skills, and the importance of decoding skills as a prerequisite for strong reading comprehension skills (Gough & Tunmer, 1986; Hoover & Gough, 1990). Suggestions for future family-focused literacy interventions are provided.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season